The 7 Personas of the Office Move – Which one are you? Which one am I?

I’ve seen more office moves than I care to count. They happen regularly in most organisations and ought to be quite straightforward, but they aren’t. All of those pesky people and their personalities get in the way. I’ve met a number of these personalities down the years and thinking they can be arranged into about 7 different personas:

1. Stephen Simple

Stephen is the basis of all office move plans. He is the person who has a few things on his desk that can be moved in a single go. He sometimes has a single drawer pedestal of other things that need to be moved, but sometimes he doesn;t even need to do that. Moving Stephen just requires the pedestal and the few items on his desk to be moved from one desk to the other.

On the day of Stephen’s move he moves in a few minutes with the minimum of fuss. Just tell him when and where and it will be done, most of the time he will move himself.

2. Cathy Clutter

Cathy’s desk is a wonderful assortment of personal trinkets, photos of family members and pets, internal process guides, corporate and cartoon mugs, tubs of pens, and management or technical books. Each of these items look to the uninformed randomly placed, but each one has its place and each one has its uses. Once placed each object will remain in that place, objects are never discarded.

The desk pedestal that Cathy uses is full of even more of the wonderful assortment. There will be more wonderful assortment under the desk, on top of the pedestal and on any flat surface that Cathy can claim as her own.

Moving Cathy is best left to Cathy. There’s no point in trying to move her, she’ll need to place everything in its place, even if you think it’s in the right place it won’t be.

Starting the move is a significant event for Cathy, she’ll need plenty of notice to prepare. Preparation will not involve moving anything, preparation is a state of mind. Once she’s started the move, she will complete it, but it will take a while, her challenge is starting.

3. Keith Cupboards

Keith’s desk is a tidy place without too much clutter, but start planning an office move and Keith will feature highly on your list of issues to be resolved. He may look a bit like Stephen Simple above the desk, but he is nothing like Simple away from the desk. As you look around the open office and ponder the ownership of various cupboards distributed around the answer will become clear once you engage with Keith.

There is no doubt in Keith’s mind that everything that is in a cupboard is still required. It’s all there for a reason and Keith needs to be able to get access to it at all times. He might not need regular access, but he needs all of it, in the office and not in long-term storage.

Planning Keith’s move will be a logistical challenge. All of the cupboards will need to move and all of the cupboards are full. Keith is unlikely to be prepared to move anything between cupboards so the whole thing is going to have to move, that may be easier said than done. Moving Keith’s desk is a relatively straightforward thing, moving Keith is significantly more complicated. Moving Keith may even involve a structural engineer.

There’s little point in discussing a reduction in cupboard space with Keith, if anything he wants more. Any suggestion of reduced capacity will make him intransigent, the skill is to understand what’s in it for Keith, but don’t ever trade more cupboard space for the move.

4. William Whiteboards

Similar to Keith, William’s desk is relatively clean and straightforward to move. William has a different challenge; William will only move where he has the required whiteboard space, furthermore, he would prefer to move with his whiteboards.

William’s whiteboards are a work of art with numerous diagrams, columns of writing, arrows, boxes and colour. William’s whiteboards have become an extension to his mind and any separation from them would cause significant psychological impact.

The reliance upon whiteboards will significantly restrict the locations where you can place William. the need for a wall to support the whiteboards will mandate that he is at the edge of any room. Please do not expect to reduce the size of his whiteboard or try to fool him into using an inferior whiteboard, this will have a significant impact upon his well-being. He will not “just get over it”.

5. Penny Precise

Penny is happy to move, but she wants to know what the move will entail. Will she be closer to, or further away from a window? Will she have a view out of the window? Will she still be next to her colleagues? Will she be closer to or further away from the water filter machine? Will she be sat next to a corridor? What distance will she be from the toilets? Will it be lighter or darker than her current location? How about heat? Or draughts? Or air conditioning?

On the day of the move what time will she be moving? Will she be moving her pedestal, or will someone else? Will she be taking her fan with her? Who will be moving the phone? Will she be moving her laptop? Who else will be moving at the same time as her? What should she do if she isn’t available on the day of the move? What’s the name of the person doing the move? Will she be moving her own chair or using the one that’s already there?

She’ll have even more questions on the actual day of the move.

Penny can be exhausting, each question is valid, many of the answers are unknown, others have obvious answers. The answer that you want to give to many of the questions is another question: “why do you care?” But Penny does care, that’s why she is asking. She doesn’t necessarily care about the answers, she cares about the questions.

6. Lesley Leaver

Lesley’s desk is a bit cluttered, but nothing like as bad as Cathy’s, she’s also got some items in various cupboards around the place. The truth is Lesley has no idea what she’s got and that’s fine for Lesley. When it’s time to move she’ll move the things that she thinks she wants and leave the rest behind.

The people doing the office move will then be left with a dilemma, do they assume that everything that has been left can go in a skip, or do they try to find the owner so that it can be returned to them? This isn’t as easy a decision as it sound, but Lesley isn’t worried about it, she’s already moved on.

As I write this there is a cupboard beside me of which one whole shelf has become orphaned from its owner. I think that it used to belong to someone who left the company over 3 years ago. There are all sorts of things in there including digital media and a laptop, but numerous attempts to dispose of these items have resulted in failure.

The Leavers create a snowball effect during most office moves. The person who moves into the place where a Leaver has been moves the left items onto another desk where other left items have already been deposited. The person moving into that desk then has the joy of moving two lots of left items onto a third desk, and on it goes until eventually a whole desk is full of the leavings of others.

Lesley is easy to move, dealing with the aftermath of her move can take weeks.

7. Ian Island

In every office move there is always an Ian, he has been sat at the same desk since he joined the company in 1982. Somehow every office move happens around him, they never require him to move. Ian is a mystery, it’s not clear what the impact on him would be, if he did have to move, because it’s never happened. No one knows whether he likes it where he sits, no one bothers asking because he has been their so long.

Ian sits amongst the world that is changing around him oblivious to the experience that others are having. Thankfully Ian can be pretty much ignored during an office move.

As I’ve sat amongst an office move over the last few weeks I think I’ve witnessed each of these personas at play, but have I missed any?

Do you identify as one of these? Do you have any recommendations on how to handle the various personas?

We all have a perspective

Whatever we are looking at, whether we are near to it, or a long way away from it, we have a perspective on it. We can’t see the back of it, we might not even be able to see the side of it. We are limited to our perspective.

Giardelli'sThe same issue of perspective can also apply to our attitudes and ideas.

I know of people who write off an application or web site after only a few minutes of looking at it. I know other people who regard everything from a particular company as being the best at whatever it is that the product is doing. I myself would prefer never to see a product from certain companies ever again.

Each one of these opinions is formed from a perspective built up from an experience.

Whether this perspective is a good one, or not, is difficult to assess, particularly by ourselves. We can’t see what we can’t see.

Some of these perspectives are formed from our irrationality. Even when we know something that would change our perspective we don’t.

Standing at the bottom of a cliff our perspective towards the cliff could be completely different. We could see it as an adventure to overcome, we could also see it as a dangerous place to move quickly away from.

In many work situations we try to gain the perspective of others, but often we choose people who will reinforce our perspective to review our understanding. We need to do a better job of valuing diverse views and opinions.

Sometimes perspectives are called “experience” because they’ve been held for some time. But often this type of perspective isn’t built from experience at all, it’s built from an experience.

We use statistics to support our perspectives and reinforce the words of Einstein: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Spend any time at all looking at the statistics that surround the issue of global warming and you will find people who people who’s perspective, no matter what it is, is supported by one statistic or another.

When I am reversing my car into a tight parking spot my perspective is very limited. Sometimes someone will off to show me the way in. These people don’t sit next to me an use the same perspective that I have, they stand outside the car to give the situation another perspective.

Many of the words innovations have happened by someone taking what already existed and seeing it in a different perspective. One example is this video from Ikea:

I quite like this quote, it seems to sum up what I’m trying to say:

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.

There’s lots of power in connecting with the field of vision of someone else.

We all get frustrated!

We all get frustrated and that’s often a good thing.

Now I’m not talking here about the depressive kind of frustration that can gnaw away at us, day after day. I’m talking about the kind of frustration that pushes us into action. There can be a fine line between the two, and often that difference is found within our attitude towards them, but sometimes the difference is found in the situation itself.

Tuscany 2009There are things that frustrate me about which I can do absolutely nothing, but that is the exception. In most situations I have some power to do something. Often the cost of change is higher that I am willing to pay, but sometimes, just sometimes, frustration drives me to make a change.

As I look at the innovations that I have been involved in I can’t think of a single one that has come out of a grand idea. By a “grand idea” I am talking about those situations where someone, unprovoked, has a good idea, as if from nowhere, that makes a difference. I am sure that this kind of “grand idea” does happen, but I can’t think of a situation in my experience. I can, however, think of lots of situations where an innovation has happened because someone got well and truly fed-up something and decided to do something about it.

Sometimes we need the pain of frustration to spur us into a change. Without the frustration there wouldn’t have been the innovation.

The danger for many businesses is that they suppress frustration and miss out on the innovation. I would be interested to know how many employees regard themselves as disengaged simply because they could not find an answer to their frustration, there’s certainly lots written about it. Perhaps your frustration makes you a high “flight potential”.

There are a new generation of employees entering the workplace for whom frustration manifests itself very differently to my own generation. These individuals are going to cause all sorts of problems for traditional organisations that are not willing to embrace change.

One of the reasons I like the job that I am currently doing is that it gives me huge potential to change things, that doesn’t mean that I don’t get frustrated, it just means that I have an outlet for it. That’s what makes it so interesting.

As for the situations where I have absolutely no power to change the frustration – then I need to change my attitude towards the situation.

We’re all journalists!

Yesterday Jonathan was involved in a bit of a news incident. One of the buses at his college exploded into flames as it was sitting waiting to leave the college where he studies.

This happened around 4:30pm. According to the local press the fire services were called at 4:26.

By 17:44 the first comments were being added to a Facebook group.

A bit later than this an article was being written on the local newspaper’s site featuring photos and videos taken by students on their mobile phones. The article was posted to Twitter at 18:17.

By 18:44 one of the students (Sam Pratt) posted:

Within two hours and 10 mins since the Runshaw bus fire, a Facebook group was created, 4 videos and 12 photos were on it and the LEP had already covered it on their website. How’s THAT for social media?

By 20:48 it was in the BBC web site with what looks like a security camera picture.

The BBC site has a single 150 word article with a single picture.

The Lancashire Evening Post site has a 650 word article a single video and 7 photographs. There’s also 8 comments (mostly pointing people to the Facebook group)

This morning there are nearly 1200 members of the Facebook group. There are 30 photographs and 8 videos. There are are over 180 different comment threads as well as comments on lots of the photos and videos. Some videos have also been posted to YouTube.

I’m sure that this scenario is being played out all over the world right now because we’re all reporters of the news now.

The Lancashire Evening Post sites say: “See The Evening Post on Friday for exclusive pictures and comments from eyewitnesses", why should I? I’ve already read the eyewitness reports from hundreds of students and seen more than enough photographic evidence.

I’m sure that there is still a need for journalists, but it needs to be about adding value.

We’re all irrational!

How many rational decisions do you make? Do you think that most of your decisions are rational? Coke

Do you worry about anything?

Did you know that people feel less safe in a highly guarded airport than they do in a less well guarded one?

Have you ever worried about illness? Do your worries reflect the reality of the risk?

Do your death worries reflect the size of the bars in this chart?

Are you twice as worried about cardiovascular issues compared to cancer, or over 1000 times more worried about cancer than swine flu?

I work in IT and I see irrationality everywhere I look.

On a weekly basis I see projects that people expect to “revolutionise” the way that they work. This is a completely irrational expectation. Tell me the last thing that completely “revolutionised” anything? No I can’t think of anything either. I can think of things that have made a positive contribution, and some thing that have made a negative contribution but nothing that on its own could be regarded as truly revolutionary.  There is a cumulative effect that could be regarded as revolutionary but that comes over time and it the outcome is normally unexpected.

Another area of IT irrationality is the area of cost control. The only factor that seems to influence whether something is worried about as a cost is it’s size. You might say that that was a rational response, but it isn’t – the real measure should be value. Microsoft software, as an example, gets managed quite tightly because it’s a big number, but this software is used all day, every day, by most organisations. Very little control is normally placed upon the thousands of other bits of software that most organisations use and that’s because the software tends to go out in small chunks, for a project here and a project there. The overall cost of the little bits is itself a big number, but the amount of value that is being generated from it is quite low. I see many of these applications, that get delivered as “vital”, ending up dormant and waiting to be used.

Another area of IT irrationality is how few of the capabilities that people have available to them get used, even when they could add value. I’m becoming very intolerant of the people I see using an application like PowerPoint who draw a box and then put on top of the box a text box and then put the words into the text box. I want to scream – “just right click and add the words straight into the box” (and I must admit that sometimes I do).

I’m not immune from this irrationality. One of my irrational acts is checking my Blackberry at completely inappropriate times. These are times when I know that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do anything with what I have just read. Why do I bother looking then?

How many organisations are there out there that are running business critical processes on platforms that are out-of-support, unsupported and unsupportable.  Why don’t they do the rational thing and replace them?

Having said all of that, I’m not sure that rationality is always a good thing. Most of the successful innovations I have seen have been a complete surprise to the people who created them. If they had been rational they wouldn’t have done what they did. We need some things to fail to know that they are failures. Perhaps we need to regard the next great thing as “revolutionary” to give it a fighting chance of being just that.

(Thanks to Information is Beautiful for the charts, I really like charts and visualisations, so much better than words)

We’re all lazy!

If someone is going to do something for us we are likely to let them, even if they don’t quite do as good a job of it as we would like. That’s the way we are wired.

There are, of course, exceptions to this situation, but in general we would rather be lazy.

Hyatt Regency San FranciscoIn IT our aim is to make things easier for people (I know it doesn’t always seem that way). The problem is, we often make it easier by taking away the responsibility from the consumer, making them lazy.

I was reminded of this again today by an article in Computerworld by Mathias Thurman. Mathias is talking about the creation of a policy within his organisation that enforces screen lock-out. Most people would regard this as good practice, and I’m not advocating that it’s not, my challenge and one that Mathias recognises is that the enforcement of this policy will make people lazy.

Some of the people within his organisation already have a setting that is more stringent than the policy that he is going to enforce. He says of these people:

They have shown the sort of awareness of security issues that I try to instill in the entire workforce, and now we’re rolling out a policy that seems to say that their security consciousness was unnecessary.

He’s right to be concerned, these people will start to see that the responsibility for security is no longer theirs and has shifted to be the responsibility of the policy set by the IT department.

There’s a greater challenge with this type of policy, and that is that all of the people will now rely upon the policy to lock their screens, including all of the people who used to manually lock their screens when they left their desks. For this group of people the security risk has actually increased, instead of the device being locked when not attended it will be left unlocked for a period of time until the policy kicks in.

This shift of responsibility means that people treat IT as something that is delivered to them, rather than something that they are responsible for.

Lack of responsibility has many facets to it that influence the behaviour of those consuming the services. These include:

  • Abuse of the services – “why should I look after this stuff it’s not my responsibility”
  • Working around the services – “if they won’t let me do it, I’ll just go and  do it somewhere else”
  • Apathy to the service – “I’ll just have to use this service because that’s all I’ve got available to me”

We need to find a new way of working that protects the business, but doesn’t remove the responsibility from those consuming the services. We need to do this recognise people’s innate laziness.